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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Musing in a Time of Angst

From The Castaway:

“The sea had jeeringly kept his [Pip’s] finite body up, but drowned the infinite of his soul. Not drowned entirely, though. [ . . .] Pip saw God’s foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So man’s insanity is heaven’s sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his God.”



The sections about Pip are as complex and deep as the ocean that nearly took Pip. Pip is a cabin boy on a ship of men who treat him like a pet. When Pip is left alone in the ocean for hours, we see that though he did not drown, he was not quite saved. This passage implies that Pip came face to face with god and could not handle the truth of what he saw. Not enough has been written about the black Pip seeing the truth of how the world works and not being able to return to live in that same world in the same way. That Pip would feel god is indifferent after his experience is a understatement. I love Melville for creating Pip.

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